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April 25, 2010
Obama denies NYT report, but paper refuses to acknowledge
On April 7, the New York Times ran a report by diplomatic correspondent Helene Cooper that President Obama was moving toward formulating his own peace plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because prospects were dim for negotiations between the two sides and, even if they could be revived, were bound to fail.
Cooper went so far as to outline the likely parameters of Obama's anticipated peace plan -- no "right of return" for Palestinian refugees, Israeli retreat to the pre-1967 lines "give or take a few negotiated settlements and territorial swaps," sharing of Jerusalem and its holy sites, a NATO peacekeeping force along the Jordan River and recognition of Israel by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.
"It's not rocket science," Cooper quoted Robert Malley, a Mideast analyst.
Two weeks later, Obama firmly denied that he has any intention to impose his own peace plan, arguing that for any peace deal to endure it had to be negotiated directly by Israeli leaders. "Peace cannot be imposed from the outside," he declared.
Yet, as I write these lines on April 25, the Times has yet to acknowledge the President's denial of Cooper's piece.
Cooper based her April 7 story on a leak about a White House meeting a couple of weeks earlier between National Security Adviser James Jones and half a dozen of his predecessors in prior administrations -- with Obama himself in attendance. At that meeting, there was a strong push by several of Jones's predecessors -- Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Samuel Berger -- for Obama to acknowledge that negotiations were going nowhere and that the time had arrived for the president to put forward his own peace plan.
Here's how Cooper put it:
The Times' article, along with similar reports in other media, prompted a wave of strong criticism from prominent Israel supporters, including erstwhile Obama backers, who feared that the president would impose harsh peace terms on Israel without regard to continued Palesitnian terrorist threats and Hamas' total control of Gaza. Large majorities of members of Congress sent protest letters to the White House. The Washington Post editorialized that Obama was about to court "diplomatic disaster" because imposition of a U.S. peace plan was bound to go nowhere and, if anything, would inflame tensions even more.
Obama also heard from an old Chicago friend and supporter, Alan Solow, who happens to be chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
And so, two weeks after Cooper's article, Obama wrote a letter to Solow and the Conference, in which he declared that he had no intention to impose peace "from the outside."
In Obama's own words:
Obama attributed media suggestions to the contrary -- like those in the New York Times -- to "the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently."
Yet, as I write these lines on April 25, the Times still maintains a news blackout on the president's denial of its April 7 report.
Obama's rejection of imposition of a U.S. peace plan puts him on the same side as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who also has ruled out Israeli acceptance of any externally imposed peace deal -- something the Times also would rather not tell its readers.
So we are left with a Times article by Cooper based entirely on unidentified sources, while the Times maintains total silence about the President's publicly stated contrary views.
And the Times wonders why there's so much distrust of what appears in its news columns.